I am familiar with:


Usually I use it with family and friends, also I saw some tweets with this phrase.

Today I found these two variations: 賀正{がしょう} (noun) and 謹賀新年{きんがしんねん} (interjection), looking at tangorin.com both means Happy New Year

賀正{がしょう} drawing looks like an interjection.

Where do I use these forms?

2 Answers 2


Actually, you hardly have a chance to use them in conversation and everyday writing. The only places for these words are billboards and greeting letters, especially New Year's Cards (年賀状).

Both of them are ye olde bywords even Japanese rarely know what they mean, but nevertheless used as convenient slogans roughly mean "Happy New Year". Yes, they differ in meaning, as much as Annum Faustum and Felix Sit Annus Novus do, but usually you can freely pick either one, according to your artistic sense :)

Grammatically, they are neither noun nor interjection, unless you say that everything which doesn't belong with grammar is interjection. The true face of them is formal Classical Chinese sentences, which can be paraphrased (訓読) into Japanese as:

正【しょう】を賀【が】す (I) Celebrate the Primary (Month)
謹【つつし】んで新年【しんねん】を賀【が】す (I) Respectfully Celebrate the New Year

You can find many other greeting cliches for your 年賀状 in this article, though it's too late for this year's...

A new hypothesis on why 正 means the first (month):

The corresponding Chinese root reconstructs as *tek ‘single, only, only one’. It includes these words:

隻 *tek > tsyek > zhī ‘single’ 1260c, 

適 *s-tek > syek > shì ‘only’ 0877s, 

啻 *s-tek-s > syeH > shì ‘only’ 0877k.

Root *tek and the root in 正 *teŋ-s differ only in the nasality of the coda. This suggests 正 writes 隻 *tek ‘1’ in a context where its ending had become nasalized. The onset of the following word: 月 *[ŋ]ʷat is likely where nasality comes from. 正月 was an appropriate way of putting *teŋ-ŋʷat < *tek-ŋʷat into readable form.

  • I was interpreting 正{しょう} as 'correct' not 'primary'. What is exacly 漢文訓読{かんぶんくんどく}?
    – sumitani
    Jan 2, 2015 at 22:45
  • (1) You know, 正 has a bunch of meanings en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E6%AD%A3 but it's hard to tell exactly which it means here, because the phrase 正月 for "the first month of calender" is so ancient that you can find it on oracle bones. I just chose the most favorable one. (2) A traditional method to read Classical Chinese as if be Japanese. Though it sounds as weird as English in Latin or Greek textbooks, a large number of Japanese proverbs you'll learn originate from it. Jan 3, 2015 at 5:30
  • One thing I didn't mention is, strictly speaking, my 正{しょう}を賀{が}す deviates from the canonical way of 漢文訓読, since it always uses 漢音 (せい for 正 and か for 賀). You can also read it 正を賀{いわ}う or 正を賀{よろこ}ぶ, meaning unchanged. Jan 3, 2015 at 5:55
  • いわう、よろこぶ are 訓読み{くんよみ}? I know 喜ぶ{よろこぶ}.
    – sumitani
    Jan 4, 2015 at 0:10
  • 1
    @sumitani FYI, Laurent Sagart recently proposed an interesting hypothesis that 正月 is etymologically 隻 (OC *tek; "single", older "one") + 月 (OC *ŋʷat; "moon"). When it became an idiom, *tekŋʷat was assimilated to *teŋŋʷat, thus recorded using 正 (OC *teŋ). Feb 20, 2023 at 7:10

So let me explain something. As you might know, historically speaking, we owe so much to Chinese and Korean cultures, thus, these 2 "賀正" and "謹賀新年" are actually Japanese version of Chinese haha.

Now, as a starter, I think you need to know that we, Japanese, use different manner to different person. ( Meaning if the recipient is higher in social ranking ( such as your boss ) or even though I would not like to say, "equal" or "lower" to you ).

Now, Chinese composure is SOV. Thus Both, 賀正, 謹賀新年, means respectively, "Wish( =賀 ) a good ( inferred ) New Year ( 正 )", and "With a respect to you( = 謹 ), I ( inferred ) wish ( = 賀 ) good ( inferred ) New ( 新 ) Year ( 年 )"

So, as I said above, "formally" saying, you should avoid using 賀正 to your boss because of that reason mentioned above, while 謹賀新年 can be more appropriate.

You might be able to use 賀正 to your friends or your relatives or a man working under the command of you, but I recommend not to use to your boss ( I dare to say, "formally" ).

And both these 賀正 and 謹賀新年 can or should be used only in New Year letters, because long time ago people used Chinese origin often in letters. Not verbally. Please be careful.

And let me add one more advice, 明あけましておめでとう is too frank in either verbal manner or in letters. You can speak this to your close friend, but I think personally you'd better avoid speaking to "anyone". 明けましておめでとう御座います, is a phrase added with "politeness phrase" ( 御座います ) and I'm sure you can use this word to anyone from your friend or relatives or even to your boss.

I wish this might helped you.

  • Indeed, I forgot to put ございます. Maybe these words are still used in Chinese?
    – sumitani
    Jan 3, 2015 at 23:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .